WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — High school and college students apply for jobs at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base each summer with hopes of working in a world-class research laboratory.
Ashley Wissel, an undergraduate student from Purdue University, worked this summer in AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate as a Pathways intern.
The Pathways Program offers federal internship and employment opportunities for current students, recent graduates and those with an advanced degree. The program offers paid opportunities to work in federal agencies and explore federal careers while completing an education. It’s one of many opportunities offered to students each summer.
Wissel discovered this opportunity through her research advisor, Dr. Daniel Evans, whom she worked with in previous years and deemed Wissel a top candidate for the position.
The goal in pairing a student with a researcher is the assurance that there will be a future workforce to meet forthcoming needs. Nurturing of future generations is also an aspiration.
Wissel’s mentor, Dr. Shanee Pacley of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, said that mentoring a summer student is a rewarding experience for everyone involved in the program. She also said it is of great benefit to give students the experience of working for the Air Force on research that directly supports warfighter needs.
“Ashley did a super job this summer,” said Pacley. “She is one of the most independent, self-motivated students that I have had the opportunity to mentor.”
Wissel commented that her experience far exceeded her expectations. She was introduced to many researchers who were more than willing to answer her questions and was empowered to independently perform hands-on work in the lab.
Additional networking activities were planned for the students during their tenure, including a tour of Carillon Historical Park, a 65-acre park and museum in Dayton, Ohio, which contains historic buildings and exhibits highlighting the history of technology and Dayton and its residents from 1796 to the present. Interns were also invited to attend various lunch time seminars on specific scientific topics.
“Networking and becoming friends with other students is a great opportunity because you get to learn about lots of the projects going on in the directorate and you can share advice and ideas with each other,” said Wissel.
According to student program manager Asheley Blackford, AFRL has an excellent pool of research candidates that are highly skilled and motivated. Their talents support the Air Force mission to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace.
“We get students from all over the country with fresh ideas anxious to gain real world experience working alongside topnotch scientists and engineers,” said Blackford. “The students bring a fresh perspective to the directorate each summer, stimulating the diversity of thought in the organization.”
The summer program concluded with a poster session with more than 60 students showcasing their research efforts, goals and learning experiences while working in the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.
This is Wissel’s second year in the program, and her first time working with Dr. Pacley.
“I felt very relaxed and comfortable from the first day I arrived for work, and the environment is very friendly,” she said. “Dr. Pacley really encouraged me to think critically about my project and ask lots of questions, and I am extremely fortunate to have been able to return to the program for a second year.”
These students are future scientists and engineers. Guiding them in their future career is an asset to any organization.
Full-time work is typically accomplished during the months of May through September, depending on the students’ schedules. Applicants must be at least 16 years old and enrolled in high school, a technical school or other qualifying educational institution.
Applications for several government and contractor student programs can be found at USAJOBS.gov/studentsandgrads/.